Watching one of the greatest matches in Wadsworth wrestling history really got to Dom Loparo.
A state placer at the junior high level, Loparo wasn’t feeling the sport as a freshman. Then Jan. 19, 2017, hit and Loparo’s wrestling life changed forever.
A fan in the home crowd, he watched as Wadsworth erased an 18-point deficit against Brecksville. He saw Cody Surratt, Joey Baughman, Alex Jones and Clay McComas cut the deficit to one point and Jordan Earnest win at heavyweight to give Wadsworth a 31-29 victory and an eventual 25th consecutive Suburban League title.
“I had been wrestling since I was 5,” Loparo said. “When I thought about it and thought hard, I called Coach (John Gramuglia) and said, ‘Coach, I’m really sorry. I hope you don’t mind if I come and practice for the rest of the year,’ and we just took it from there.”
That call came on June 20, 2017, and changed the landscape for Wadsworth.
Knowing how fragile team chemistry can be, Gramuglia welcomed Loparo to the team but didn’t let him compete in a match. Loparo was allowed to practice as the Grizzlies prepared for a postseason in which they finished fourth at the Division I state tournament.
It was all the same to Loparo, who punched the clock for practice and then ran the video camera during matches.
“At first, the reason I left was because I wasn’t mentally into it,” Loparo said. “I wasn’t mentally tough enough my freshman year. I wasn’t grown up enough to handle it. Once I broke through that, it was the grind of mentally pushing yourself. It just makes you think on a whole new level.
“Even when you’re practicing, you just have to keep going. You can’t quit because someone is always out there and they’re working just as hard as you or harder. They want the same thing you want.”
That selflessness to prepare for his sophomore season and get Wadsworth ready despite not officially competing really stuck with the coaching staff.
Current coach Clay Wenger, who was an assistant at the time, knew he had something special. The entire team could benefit just by having him in the room.
“He’s just a competitor,” Wenger said. “He loves to compete. Watching him in the room or on the football field, whatever he does, he loves the game. He loves the spotlight. He loves the live wrestling. He loves to win, so no matter what it is, he’s putting it all out there.”
That showed the moment Loparo was allowed to compete on varsity as a sophomore. Back on the mat at 160 pounds, he went 31-7 and reached the state tournament, where he came one match away from placing.
After resting an early injury, Loparo won the Suburban League Tournament, Wadsworth Sectional and placed at the Grizzly Invitational Tournament and North Canton District.
“It’s the drive to succeed and wanting to be the best,” he said. “It’s always pushing yourself to the next level and not taking anybody’s crap. It’s about being mean and going as hard as you can. Even if you lose, as long as you just leave everything out there, you can’t be mad at yourself.”
Now at 170, Loparo has hit the mat with fervor this season and logged a 16-2 mark, with tournament wins at North Canton and Medina.
“He’s always trying to compete with everyone,” 182-pounder Jonathan List said. “No matter who it is, he’s always trying to give it his best. He’s always trying to push himself and trying to push everyone around him. If a challenge is put in front of him, he’s going to give it his best. He’s going to keep fighting.”
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